Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas commissioners approve extra $6 million for sheriff's office

CLEARWATER — Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri will receive an extra $6 million from the county's general fund next year to pay his deputies more.

In a budget workshop Thursday, county commissioners agreed to set aside that amount from a projected $14 million cushion in next year's budget. Gualtieri had asked for $20.6 million over the target budget the county gave him, but he told commissioners last month he could get by with $6 million to finish a new pay plan that awards raises based on experience. The sheriff has said higher salaries will help him retain and attract top talent by being more competitive with surrounding agencies.

Commissioner Karen Seel supported the move but warned the pay plan would commit future commissions to higher costs in future years, which could be problematic during another recession. Commissioner Pat Gerard agreed but noted that some governments suspended the step plans during the last downturn.

"I think the caution is warranted, but I think we are being cautious," Commissioner Ken Welch said.

Afterward, Gualtieri said the plan will cost less than giving annual 3 percent cost-of-living raises. He said the agency can freeze the annual increase in tough economic times by exercising an "economic hardship" clause.

"We're doing this in a cautious and fiscally responsible way that solves the problem, keeps us competitive, accomplishes all the goals, but at the same time is mindful of the fiscal limits," he said.

Commissioners generally went along with the recommendations from County Administrator Mark Woodard based on priorities commissioners have highlighted in recent weeks. Woodard and staff are building the budget with the intention of keeping the county millage rates the same and maintaining reserves at 15 percent of the general revenue.

Other big-ticket requests that garnered approval are $2 million for software to manage the county's assets; $1.6 million for a Microsoft licensing agreement; and $965,000 for a pilot program to develop best practices to treat frequent users of the county's behavioral health services.

The budget will also accommodate requests from some of the constitutional officers. Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark will get nearly $700,000 for high-speed ballot scanners, electronic poll books and other new voting technology.

There's good news for arts advocates, too. Creative Pinellas, the county's designated arts agency, will receive $200,000 to promote the arts and provide minigrants to artists. The agency will augment the funding with $100,000 from its reserves.

Commissioners also agreed to $105,000 to raise the minimum wage for employees who work under the county administrator; $99,250 to renovate a portion of Clearview Elementary for the Florida Dream Center to use as a home base for its Adopt-A-Block program in Lealman; and $70,000 for youth sports organizations such as the Seminole Youth Athletic League Association and the Cross Bayou Little League to repair and maintain fields and facilities.

The first public hearing on the budget is set for Sept. 10.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

Comments
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background. A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangr...
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Rays DFA Rob Refsnyder to make room for Kevin Kiermaier

Rays DFA Rob Refsnyder to make room for Kevin Kiermaier

The Rays made official after Monday's game that CF Kevin Kiermaier would be activated on Tuesday.And to make room on the 40- and 25 man rosters, they designated for assignment OF Rob Refsnyder.Acquired from the Indians for cash considerations just be...
Updated: 4 hours ago
St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

ST. PETERSBURG — Residents can expect their water and sanitation bills to increase between $7 and $11 starting in October.That represents an average of a 7-percent increase. Customers who use an average of 4,000 gallons a month, including reclaimed w...
Updated: 7 hours ago
The Daystarter: South Florida rapper gunned down; murals adorn reclaimed water tanks; the album we’ve all been waiting for

The Daystarter: South Florida rapper gunned down; murals adorn reclaimed water tanks; the album we’ve all been waiting for

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• It’s here: summer. Highs this week will all be in the 90s, with feels-like temperatures near 100 degrees, according to 10Weather WTSP.• As you head out for your morning commute, check...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Romano: A Tampa Bay

Romano: A Tampa Bay "superstar’’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
Review: On ‘Everything Is Love,’ Beyonce and Jay-Z emerge from chaos defiant, triumphant

Review: On ‘Everything Is Love,’ Beyonce and Jay-Z emerge from chaos defiant, triumphant

In 2016 Beyoncé dropped Lemonade, a culture-quaking song cycle about her troubled marriage to Jay-Z, and more broadly about the black female experience in America. It was her best and most meaningful work, and it was nominated for Album of the Year a...
Published: 06/19/18
Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

HOUSTON — The Rays brought up several of their top prospects so they can get as much experience as possible.And Monday that included seeing how the relentless defending champion Astros worked their way back from an early four-run deficit to sco...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

HOUSTON — Well before the idea of using a reliever to open games, as the Rays did against the Astros Monday for the 12th time, and then bringing in a starter was even a gleam in the eyes of the current Rays staff, former manager Lou Piniella wa...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Nazi or not? Tattoo sparks Twitter storm over wounded New Port Richey veteran

Nazi or not? Tattoo sparks Twitter storm over wounded New Port Richey veteran

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is pushing back against a social media post implying that a combat-wounded New Port Richey veteran has a Nazi symbol tattooed on his arm.In a tweet Monday afternoon, ICE officials denied the vete...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pinellas protesters: Stop separating families at the border

Pinellas protesters: Stop separating families at the border

Protests were held on both ends of Pinellas County on Monday in opposition to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents as they seek asylum at the U.S. border."Children are not pawns," "No kids in cages" and "I would...
Updated: 7 hours ago